Diamond Mountain - Mark West NEC
A view of the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County
The Mark West Area encompasses a critically important region of wildfire and ecological focus. The watershed of Mark West Creek in the southern Mayacamas Mountain Range which leads into the Russian River is the geographical center of the Diamond Mountain - Mark West Natural Enterprise Complex (DMMW NEC). The ridgelines of the mountains in both Sonoma and Napa County help to generate intense wind events in late summer and fall that cause potentially dangerous wildfire conditions. This area of approximately 60,000 acres is home to over 50,000 thousand people along with businesses and agricultural developments. The upper watershed includes an expansive rural residential community extending along Mark West Springs, Porter Creek, Calistoga, Alpine, and St. Helena Roads. The community of Larkfield-Wikiup sits at the base of Mark West Canyon just east of the 101 freeway.
On the western corner is Pepperwood Preserve Foundation, a land conservation easement which performs scientific research and contributes to conservation science. Fire Safe Councils - community groups aimed at increasing wildfire preparedness - are also indicated on the map below.
Check out our Resources Page to see our partners and collaborative organizations.
This area has been recently impacted by large, destructive wildfires in the past five years. The Santa Rosa suburban communities of Fountain Grove, Coffey Park, and Rincon Valley historically experienced periodic wildfires, including the 1964 Hanley Fire the 2017 Tubbs Fire, the 2019 Kincade Fire, and the 2020 Glass Fire (A derivative of the LNU Lightning Complex Fires).
High intensity winds blowing east to west out of the upper watershed combined with an untimely fire ignition and caused significant loss of life and property damage plus extensive regional economic impacts. The three fires have estimated to cause approximately $3 BN in related costs to our community. Avoided costs in the future will be essential for not only the economic, social, and mental health for those in the project zone but also those who live around the NEC.
The cause of these fires are spurred by fall and winter seasonal “Diablo Winds" (Named for the Diablo Mountains) which move east to west from Napa County into the Mark West region and adjacent canyons reaching high velocities along the ridgelines. This generates annual periods of high wildfire risk. The large number of landholders in the area and limited coordinated vegetative stewardship complicate the challenges. Ridgelines and canyon landscapes are currently above their historic fuel density with altered species composition creating a higher likelihood of intensive wildfire.
DMMW NEC Goals & Vision
TALS, in partnership with over 20 NEC partners, created a map outlining the Central Mayacamas Diamond Mountain to Mark West NEC perimeter. TALS hosted several education and planning meetings to increase collaboration and build capacity. Collaboratively, the NEC developed a landscape level project proposal that can be modified and submitted for funding opportunities with Fire Safe Sonoma as the potential fiscal sponsor. Although some NEC goals will be achieved through our partnership with UC Berkeley's Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE), TALS will need to maintain an active role ensuring the “Forest-in” actions are factored in and that outcomes from the CLEE process are utilized on the ground.
Our Vision Statement for the DMMW NEC includes:
All forested communities in the Central Mayacamas Mountains are organized and represented
Projects and land improvements are prioritized at the landscape level for safety, wildfire and climate resilience, and ecological value.
Forested communities have the financial resources and capacity to implement projects in perpetuity.
To achieve our vision, TALS will:
Facilitate landscape level planning and “Forest-In” perspectives
Following CLEE’s work on scientifically based treatments and strategies, TALS will work collaboratively to ensure these findings are understood, shared, and used by local landowners, FSCs and RCDs.
Work with Fire Safe Sonoma to identify areas of importance for public and private landholders and managers to coalesce in collaborative entities that conduct joint forest stewardship and fire safety planning, funding, permitting and implementation
Convey environmental benefit flows and costs to local vineyards and wineries within the DMMW area